Vieux Farka Touré “The Hendrix of the desert” is touring Australia this and next month

Reading Time: 5 minutes

Vieux Farka Touré is a legendary Malian musician, who has been referred to as “the Hendrix of the desert”. He’s touring Australia this February and March. We had a chat with Vieux Farka Touré. Read our interview with him below.

Vieux Farka Touré

For those who don’t know, why are you called Vieux (meaning old) when you are young?

I’m the young old person. Here, we are given names by our grandfather. Vieux is my artist name but also my childhood name. It’s a name that my grandfather gave me. He didn’t call me by my first name but he called me Vieux.


I read that you speak 8 languages?! Which ones? And in which languges are your songs?

I speak French, English, two dialects of Songhai, Bambara, Peule, Bozo, Zarma, and Fulfulde. I can speak a little Arabic as well. Mali has many, many languages!


How do you convey the meaning of your songs when you are performing them to audiences that don’t speak the language they are in?

I explain a little. I explain to people what the songs are about. If it’s a love song, if it’s a song about peace – given we have a lot of problems here, so it’s a bit like that. You need to explain a little so people understand.


Your father, himself a musician, forbade you to play the guitar. Why specifically the guitar? Before he passed in 2012, you had his permission to become a musician and even record an album. Why did you decide to become a musician?

My father was reluctant for me to become a musician because it can be such a hard life. Early in my father’s career, he was exploited. He would go on tours in Europe and the shows would sell lots of tickets, but somehow, he would end up making very little money. Yet everyone else that was involved with the concerts was making a lot of money.


My father was a brilliant and intelligent man, but he didn’t know how to read and write. So, people were taking advantage of him at the beginning. Later when my father was older, he surrounded himself with the right team and he was able to have a successful career.


So, my father was worried about me becoming a musician and being exploited too. He didn’t really want me to follow in his footsteps and play guitar. Music is a calling though and I knew I had to be a musician. So once my father saw that I needed to play music and that I had attended university, he was happy that I was going to be a musician too.


Vieux Farka TouréAbout your album “Les Racines” (which translates to The Roots), which was released in June last year, you said that you wanted to “make a traditional album of personal compositions inspired by the Songhai tradition”. Tell us a bit about the Songhai tradition.

The traditional music of the Songhai has certain unique rhythms and melodic language. Sometimes people say you can hear the sound of the desert in the music. We use the calabash drum for our percussion. The melodies were originally played on the ngoni or even on string guitars. Originally the music didn’t have a bass guitar, but I use bass guitar on Les Racines.


You also said that a whole culture is transmitted through music. How can you transmit a culture through music. And what do you want to convey specifically?

Music is very important in Mali. Malians play music when they get together for events. Griots hold a very important place in Malian society. Not everyone reads the news, so sometimes important messages have to be shared through songs in Mali. I often sing songs that have broad themes. Songs that remind us we can be together as one people in Mali.


Mali has so many problems right now, but it’s important to remember we can be strong by staying unified. That will be the only way to solve our problems.


Your family left Mali and 2012 but I believe you stayed? Other than when you’re on tour, where are you based?

My family has always lived with me in Mali. Some of my family had to leave Niafunke in the North and go to Bamako in 2012 though. That was a difficult time for my family and for Mali as a nation. Things are a little better now, but there are still security concerns in the north. When I travel to Niafunke I have to be careful on the journey.


What can Australian audiences expect from your concerts?

I’ll be playing some songs from my 2022 albums Les Racines and Ali, but also older songs too. Australia has some of the best audiences, so I can’t wait to be back. I haven’t been there since 2017.


How many are you on stage?

I’ll be performing with my trio. Adama Kone on drum set and calabash drum. Modibo Mariko on bass guitar.

Vieux Farka Touré
Photo: Kiss Diouara


You have done collaborations with other artists including Rachel from Israel. Do you have an artist you dream of collaborating with?

I’m interested in doing a reggae album someday with a big star like Ziggy Marley. That would be really fun. I also like American blues and Cuban music. Both styles have interesting connections to Malian music. A lot of my professors at the Institut National des Arts de Bamako had studied in Cuba. So, I’m also interested in exploring those styles more in my future collaborations.

We thank Vieux Farka Touré for this interview



WHAT: Vieux Farka Touré in concert


Vieux Farka Touré’s tour will be in the following locations, on the following dates and tickets are available via the following links.

Friday 24 February
Northcote Social Club, Melbourne VIC

Saturday 25  February
Meeniyan Hall, Meeniyan VIC

Sunday 26 February
MONA Sessions, Hobart

Thursday 2 March
Sydney Opera House, Sydney

Friday 3  March
Tanks Arts Centre, Cairns QLD

Saturday 4  March
Music By The Sea, Sandgate QLD

Sunday 5 March
Street Theatre, Canberra ACT

Thursday 9  March
Theatre Royale Castlemaine, VIC

Friday 10 March
Port Fairy Folk Festival, VIC

Saturday 11 Mar
Port Fairy Folk Festival VIC


For more events happening with French and francophone links in February check out our What’s on in February



Enter your email to subscribe to new article notifications about all things French and francophone in Australia

Related Posts

Matilda Marseillaise

Discover more from Matilda Marseillaise

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading